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E05284: John Moschus, in his Spiritual Meadow, recounts how a certain recluse on the Mount of Olives was attacked by the demon of sexual desire who promised to stop annoying him if he ceased venerating the icon which displayed *Mary (Mother of Christ; S00033) carrying Jesus Christ. Written in Greek, probably in Rome, in the 620s or 630s.

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posted on 2018-04-04, 00:00 authored by julia
John Moschus, The Spiritual Meadow, 45

In this chapter Moschus recounts a story concerning the veneration of an icon of Mary Mother of Christ by a recluse on the Mount of Olives, that he received from Abba Theodore of Aelia. With this recluse the demon of sexual desire waged battle for a long time. One day the recluse began to give up in despair and asked the demon how much longer he would torment him.

Λέγει αὐτῷ ὁ δαίμων, Μὴ προσκυνήσῃς ταύτῃ τῇ εἰκόνι, καὶ οὐκ ἔτι σε πολεμῶ. Εἶχεν δὲ ἡ εἰκὼν τὸ ἐκτύπωμα τῆς Δεσποίνης ἡμῶν τῆς ἁγίας Θεοτόκου Μαρίας, βασταζούσης τὸν Κύριον ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦν Χριστόν.

'The demon said to him: "Desist from venerating this icon here and I will call off my war against you."
The icon in question bore the likeness of our Lady Mary, the holy Mother of God, carrying our Lord Jesus Christ.'

The demon insisted that the recluse swear that he would not reveal to anybody what he said to him. The recluse asked the demon to let him think about it. The next day he sent for Abba Theodore the Aeliote who at that time was residing at the Lavra of Pharon. When Abba Theodore came, the recluse told him everything. Abba Theodore said that he did good, when he broke his oath to the demon and spoke out. He also said that it would be better for the recluse to leave no brothel in the town unentered, than to diminish reverence for the Lord Jesus Christ and for His Mother. By these and other words he strengthened and comforted the recluse and went away to his own place. Then the demon reappeared to the recluse, and furious that the latter revealed everything to Abba Theodore, said to him that he would be tried as an oath-breaker at the Day of Judgement. But the recluse answered that it would be the demon who would face the consequences of the misdeeds he had brought about.

Text: Migne 1865 (PG 87.3). Translation: J. Wortley. Summary: J. Doroszewska.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Mary, Mother of Christ : S00033

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Monastic collections (apophthegmata, etc.)


  • Greek

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Rome and region Palestine with Sinai

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Rome Rome Rome Roma Ῥώμη Rhōmē Caesarea Maritima Καισάρεια Kaisareia Caesarea Kayseri Turris Stratonis

Major author/Major anonymous work

John Moschus

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Oral transmission of saint-related stories

Cult activities - Use of Images

  • Private ownership of an image

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits Demons


John Moschus (c. 540/550–634) was a monk and spiritual writer. He lived successively with the monks of the monastery of St. Theodosios, south-east of Jerusalem, among the hermits of the Jordan Valley, and at the Lavra of Pharan in the Judaean Desert, where he spent ten years. About the year 578 he went to Egypt with Sophronius, his close friend to whom he was to dedicate the Spiritual Meadow. After 583 he perhaps came to Mount Sinai where he spent about ten years. In around 604 he went to Antioch but returned to Egypt later in the same decade. In around 614-619 he went to Cyprus, then to North Africa, and then to Rome, where he died before ‘the beginning of the eighth indiction’ (i.e. September 634). He wrote the Spiritual Meadow and co-authored with Sophronius a Life of John the Almoner. The Spiritual Meadow (Gr. Leimōn pneumatikos; Lat. Pratum spirituale) was written in the 620s or 30s, very probably in Rome. The work narrates Moschus' personal experiences with many of the ascetics whom he met during his extensive travels, mainly through Palestine, Sinai and Egypt, but also Cilicia and Syria, and recounts the edifying stories and sayings that he received from them. The title of the work is explained as an analogy between picking flowers in a springtime meadow and picking edifying stories and sayings from the lives of holy men and women. The number of chapters varies depending on the manuscript.


Edition: Migne, J.P, Patrologia Graeca, vol. 87.3 (Paris, 1865), 2851-3116. Translations: Maisano, R., Giovanni Mosco, Il prato (Naples, 2002). Rouët de Journel, M.-J., Jean Moschus, Le Pré Spirituel (Sources chrétiennes 12; Paris, 1946, repr. 2006). Wortley, J., John Moschos, The Spiritual Meadow (Cistercian Studies Series 139; Kalamazoo, 1992). Further reading: Baynes, N.H., "The Pratum spirituale," Orientalia Christiana Periodica 13 (1947), 404-414; repr. in Baynes, Byzantine Studies and Other Essays (London, 1955), 261-270. Binggeli, A. “Collections of Edifying Stories,” in: S. Efthymiadis (ed.), The Ashgate Research Companion to Byzantine Hagiography II: Genres and Contexts (Farnham, 2014), 143-160, esp. 146-147. Chadwick, H.J., "John Moschus and his friend Sophroonios the Sophist," Journal of Theological Studies 25 (1974), 41-74. Follieri, E., "Dove e quando mori Giovanni Mosco?," Rivista di Studi Bizantini e Neoellenici 25 (1988), 3-39. Mioni, E., "Il Pratum Spirituale di Giovanni Mosco: gli episodi inediti del Cod. Marciano greco II.21," Orientalia Christiana Periodica (1951), 61-94. Mioni, E., "Jean Moschus, Moine," Dictionnaire de Spiritualité 7 (1973), cols. 632-640. Nissen, T., "Unbekannte Erzählungen aus dem Pratum Spirituale," Byzantinische Zeitschrift 38 (1938), 351-376. Pattenden, P., "The text of the Pratum Spirituale," Journal of Theological Studies 26 (1975), 38-54.

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